If you’ve been drawn to read this post by its title, maybe you have lived long enough to have gone through more than a few unpleasant bathroom experiences!
To get straight to the point, my purpose here is to convince you that a fancy and expensive, Japanese-style, electronic toilet with lots of best and whistles is not only worth the investment, but is something you will thank me for forever!
Well, that sounds like a bit of a tough sell, doesn’t it?
So far I’ve written a few blogs on the benefits of electronic toilets, and on the best models available.
The next step for me is to focus on different populations, and here is the result of my research on the advantages of these toilets specifically for seniors.
A short history of toilets
It is possible that you have used the same toilet for decades, and that you feel very familiar with what a toilet looks like and should look like.
However, there is no doubt that toilets have evolved a great deal over the past several millenia, and are still evolving.
The first rudimentary toilets and public sanitation systems were invented as far back as 5000 years ago in northern India. They used flowing water to remove wastes.
Fast forward to 2000 years ago, the Chinese used pigsty, i.e. pigs were eating the human wastes, or fish ponds for the same, while the Romans were probably defecating in a standing position over open sewers that were periodically flushed, and were also carrying around chamber pots, a practice that was still in effect in some prisons until 2014 in England and 2017 in Ireland.
John Harington is credited with the invention of the flush toilet in 1596. But the development of the water closet in a recognizable form dates back about 250 years, especially with the invention by Alexander Cummings of the odor-controlling S-shape for the drain in 1775.
Progress in sanitation was slow: the American standard flush toilets, that we are so familiar with, coming into widespread use only by the mid-19th century.
From this perspective, the development in Japan of the sophisticated electronic toilets with user washing and drying and toilet self-cleaning features is very recent, dating back about 50 years.
90% of Japanese homes now have them.
Only about 1% of American homes have made the transition, but it is a quickly expanding market, growing 15% per year.
As people age, the risk of unfortunate injuries increases.
Injuries related to toilet use come in many kinds and are surprisingly common (40,000 per year in the USA by some estimate).
Here is a short overview:
People can get bruised or suffer a broken hip by sitting incorrectly on a toilet seat that is too small, or too low, or poorly-designed, or when the seat breaks under the weight.
One can suffer low blood pressure from using a toilet, with a risk of losing consciousness and collapsing, or just falling asleep on the bowl!
There is also a risk of heart attack and stroke: famously king Elvis Presley is said to have died on or near his throne.
Several design features of modern toilets can reduce these risks: a smart alarm system that detects some unusual behavior of the user like a fall, a standard alarm activated by the user, and guardrails that prevent injuries in case of falling.
Toilets can be prone to explosion due to the engineers’ desire to have a powerful flushing mechanism that needs to be counterbalanced by a sturdy-enough design for that pressure.
Indeed, a number of toilets have exploded in history, due to accidents and poor designs.
Modern engineers have carefully tested their designs to put stringent limits against such accidents happening again.
In summary, it’s very sensible to upgrade one’s toilets to minimize the risk of injuries.
An Elevated Toilet
For comfort and practical reasons, it often becomes more difficult with age to squat and sit down low, and especially to get back up afterwards, if not for yourself, then surely for some of your guests.
This is why a toilet design with a higher bowl is very helpful.
With this squarely in mind, the electronic toilet designers have made elevated toilets a standard (between 17 and up to about 19 inches high) in the luxury toilet market.
Thus this is a criterion in today’s marketplace that is easy to fulfill, making electronic toilets look like stately thrones.
However, one should keep in mind that these toilets can be too tall for shorter people and for children!
Sometimes there is a need to compromise on the optimal height based on the height between several regular users.
One simple solution is just to buy a seat add-on, for example: Carex elongated seat riser.
For people with serious hip injuries, there is the possibility of a mechanical lift to help you descend to and raise back up from the toilet (see EZ-Access model link below).
Handrails and Guardrails
Handrails can also be very helpful for getting up so that the user can combine the power of arms and legs.
The concern however is for the look to be hospital-like rather than home-like.
One strategy calls for removable handrails, another for designer handrails.
It is best also if the handrails height is adjustable.
Light weight is an important feature for removable handrails.
There are many designs. Here is one example: Vaunn toilet rail.
If seat heating is not sufficient, there is the possibility of ample cushioning, which can be removable.
Additional cushioning near the toilet can prevent injuries against falls.
What Specifically to Avoid?
It is useful to go through a checklist of common toilet problems before making a purchase: a noisy flush, a slamming lid, a sweaty tank and a toilet that is tough to clean.
These problems have typically been well-solved by the manufacturers.
Poor toilet placement or toilets that don’t comfortably fit the available space should also be mentioned.
Recommended High-End Models
A good hint that a toilet will be good for seniors is if it meets the ADA (American Disability Act) requirements.
Please check out my two product reviews for either choice.
For seat replacement: Toto S550e.
Toilets have evolved a great deal, and there is probably some very good reasons specific to your situation that suggests you ought to replace or upgrade your toilets: perhaps for ease of cleaning and sanitation, or just for comfort and to avoid accidents.